Lacking any kind of match practice for months after the 1984-85 home season had ended, and with a team hastily assembled in August, the Indians were under-prepared for their visit to Sri Lanka. They were also at a further disadvantage in conditions which the Sri Lankan seam attack was accustomed to exploiting. The home team had trained assiduously for months, and for this reason alone the fledgling Test nation deserved the historic and emotive maiden win it scored in the three-match series.
India's bowling was even more limited than usual, but what let the team down was the batting. This never attained the levels it had in the two limited overs successes earlier in the year - first in Melbourne and then in Sharjah. The political background against which this series was organised, with the Indian government viewing it as a diplomatic initiative, was never likely to inspire confidence in cricketers touring the island in troubled times.
With only two three-day matches and a one-day international before the first Test, the Indians were hardly in a position to find their form before the three Tests were played off the reel. Indeed, with a bit of luck the Sri Lankans might well have won the first Test, rain robbing them of a session of play on the final day. However, the chance that had slipped away was encashed in the second Test in which the Sri Lankans outbowled and outbatted the Indians. In the final hour, Rumesh Ratnayake dived to take a return catch from a defiant Kapil Dev to end the Indian innings and signal a fine triumph. Sri Lanka had seized the chance which India had given them by losing four first-innings wickets cheaply on the fourth morning, the home batsmen sparkling as they set up a target which the Indians could not be expected to attain. Only some unconvincing umpiring, about which the Indians unfortunately stated their misgivings in very clear terms, detracted from the merits of a splendid victory.
Finding their feet somewhat late on tour, the Indians seized the initiative only in the final Test, but here too the Sri Lankan captain, Duleep Mendis, and his deputy, Roy Dias, were too good for the Indian attack. They increased their rescue stand to 216 on the final day and took their team close to snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. When they were out, both having hit hundreds the late-order batsmen played out time to force a draw and keep intact the hard-earned lead in the series.
Sri Lanka introduced some promising youngsters in the warm-up matches. Asanka Gurusinha, a teenage left-handed batsman, was the best of them. But the advent of Saliya Ahangama, a resourceful medium-pacer who capably exploited the mildly seaming conditions, helped the Test effort. Asantha de Mel, his fitness and form under a cloud, did well to strike form in the Tests and so dispelled doubts about his place in the team.
With Sunil Gavaskar opting to bat in the middle order, India were never given a solid start in the series. Krish Srikkanth made runs consistently for the first time in a revived Test career, but of the senior middle-order batsmen, Dilip Vengsarkar waged a near-lone battle for India. His unbeaten 98 was instrumental in India's staving off defeat in the first Test, and it was indicative of the difference between the two sides that there were five Test centuries by Sri Lankans against the one by an Indian (Mohinder Amarnath).
The young Indian leg-spinner, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, injured a finger on his bowling hand early on tour and never played the expected role of strike spinner. The slow left-armer, Maninder Singh, who took his place in two Tests, shone in patches and returned his best Test figures of four for 31 in the first innings of the third Test. However, he flattered to deceive when his team needed a better striking-rate in the fourth innings on a pitch increasingly helpful to spin.
Sri Lanka's victory in the series was a triumph for the seniors in the team such as Mendis, Dias, Ranjan Madugalle and De Mel. They had been fixtures in the Sri Lankan team since the country's Test baptism in February 1982, and they played leading parts in the Test win at the Tamil Union ground in Colombo. Ratnayake, with a slinging action, bowled consistently well throughout the series, the Indian batsmen never learning to judge his change of pace correctly, while Amal Silva, the wicket-keeper, set a new record for a three-Test series with 22 dismissals, including nine in the first Test.
The one-day series was shared 1-1 with the decisive third match being declared a no result because of interference from the weather and bad light.
INDIAN TOUR RESULTS
Test matches - Played 3: Lost 1, Drawn 2.
First-class matches - Played 5: Lost 1, Drawn 4.
Loss - Sri Lanka.
Draws - Sri Lanka Colts, Sri Lanka Board President's XI, Sri Lanka (2).
Non first-class matches - Played 3: Won 1, Lost 1. No result 1. Win - Sri Lanka. Loss - Sri Lanka. No result - Sri Lanka.
Match reports for